Pompeo’s Absurd Defense of Association with Islamophobic Extremists

Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of State has shone a light on his associations with some of the most extreme fear-mongering Islamophobes on the far right, like Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel. His defense of his routine appearances with them was ridiculous.

In his confirmation hearing today, Sen. Cory Booker asked Pompeo about his interactions with the two, and Pompeo predictably sidestepped the question, saying of Gaffney, “I was on his show some” (it was more than 20 times) and of Gabriel, “I’ve spoken to a number of groups.”

While Pompeo could not provide an example of his ever confronting Gabriel or Gaffney over their hateful rhetoric, he had come prepared with one example of his readiness to speak truth to extremists.

“Senator, if I might,” he said, “I have called out—we had a terrible fellow in Kansas named Fred Phelps, and I called him out.”

Phelps, who died in 2014, was the leader of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, a small ministry in Topeka that gained national infamy for protesting everything from gay pride parades to military funerals with messages like “God hates fags” and “God hates America.”

And therefore….what, exactly? So what if you called out Fred Phelps? Does that mean that your support for other hateful extremists is magically erased from memory and doesn’t matter? These are people who argue that Islam is not really a religion so the right to practice it is not protected by the Constitution. How do you suppose our allies in the Arab world are going to react to having America’s chief diplomat palling around with people like that? It’s like appointing Richard Spencer as our ambassador to Nigeria.

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